The decline of religion in America

Hark the forces of progress and reason sing.

Sorry, couldn’t resist. This news makes me very happy, to hear that people who don’t identify themselves as religious are now as big a group as Catholics and Evangelicals.

Note that it’s not necessarily a decline in religious belief or faith that this study reveals. It’s a decline in Americans’ participation in organized religion.

And I couldn’t be more delighted.

I don’t, as a rule, care much for religious beliefs of any sort unless we’re talking about the superiority of dark chocolate over the milk kind. But it doesn’t offend me either. You want to believe in an afterlife, or in a giant cosmic force-for-the-good somewhere in the universe, or in John 3:24, be my guest. You believe in the power of prayer? Meh, I figure it can’t hurt.

I also figure it can’t help, which is why I don’t bother with it, but whatever, fill your boots full of rosaries if you like. I had a grandmother who hung one on her clothesline the day before weddings and other big events to guarantee perfect weather. It didn’t work, of course, but she believed it did and no force on earth could stop her from hanging her beads to dry. Or get wet, as the case may have been on more than a few occasions. She’s long dead. For all I know she’s in heaven smirking at my disbelief. If so, good for her. I’ll keep my right to doubt for now, thanks.

Organized religion, though, I have a big problem with. Starting with the fact that they benefit from advantageous tax status as non-profit organizations in many jurisdictions, which everyone pays for. I don’t ask other people to subsidize my dark chocolate beliefs. Why should they reach into my pockets for their bible study? But worse than that is the fact that organized religions are headed and controlled by human beings, many of whom are deeply flawed at best and downright criminal at worst. When men of God sexually abuse little children, you have a serious problem. Hint: it’s not my disbelief.

Many churches and religious authorities also discourage questioning and doubt. That’s obviously not true of everyone everywhere, but I can certainly tell you that in the Catholic Church of the Quebec in which I grew up, it was very much the case. I got slapped more than a few times for asking impertinent questions to a priest. This taught me two things: 1) that religion was pretty stupid if it couldn’t deal with my prepubescent sass, and 2) that people who’d rather hit a child about the head than embarrass some bloke in a frock should go to hell.

So anyway. I am pleased as punch that finally we’re starting to see fewer people in America identify themselves as belonging to an organized religion. This will no doubt influence where that society is going, towards a more rational, less gullible, and ideally better future for all. Amen to that.

Writer | Ottawa. Books include Épître aux tartempions, Le national-syndicalisme, Down the Road Never Travelled, Not Just for Kicks, Le livre Uber (upcoming).

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